More than 200 missing after boat capsizes off Indonesia
Dec 18, 2011, 1:50 GMT
Jakarta - More than 200 people were believed missing after a boat carrying Australia-bound migrants capsized off Indonesia's Java island, rescue officials said Sunday.
At least 33 people were rescued after the accident off Prigi in East Java province on Saturday, search officer Iwan Rosadi said in the provincial capital Surabaya.
Marine police and local rescue personnel were searching the water while helicopters conducted an aerial surveillance, but rough seas were hampering the efforts, officials said.
About 250 people, including undocumented migrants from Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq were believed to have been on board, local rescue official Edwin Purnama said.
'Survivors said the boat had engine trouble and leaked after it was hit by strong waves,' Purnama said by telephone.
He said the survivors gave conflicting information about where they were going, with some saying they were on their way to Bali for a holiday.
'We believe they were bound for Australia,' he said.
The boat appeared to have been equipped with few life buoys, said Adi Purnomo, another rescue official in Surabaya.
'We fear that the victims sank with the ship, because no bodies or additional survivors have been found almost a day after the accident,' he said.
The boat was designed to carry 100 people, but survivors said more than twice that were on board, according to the state-run Antara news agency.
Two children were among those rescued, Antara reported.
'He doesn't know exactly how many passengers were on the boat,' a translator who interviewed a 24-year-old survivor from Afghanistan named Esmat Adine told Antara.
'He said before boarding the boat they were transported by four buses, each carrying about 60 people,' she said.
Indonesia has long been a transit point for migrants from the Middle East and South Asia seeking better lives in a third country, including Australia.
Some have died in accidents as they embarked on dangerous journeys in rickety boats, often with the help of human traffickers.
At least eight people, including children, were killed in November, when a wooden boat carrying Australia-bound asylum seekers from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan sank off West Java province.
In one of the worst accidents, 353 people died when their boat sank off Indonesia in October 2001.